Why did you stay?
I have no idea.
All I possess are tiny scraps, embryos that might grow into possible half truths that will never tell the whole story.
As futile as the exercise might be, I still wrestle with the question every single day.
You Don’t Have Grounds
At first I stayed because I couldn’t catch him at anything. I was told bullying wasn’t actual violence, threats weren’t actual abuse, raging fits were differences of expression. Scraps of paper with women’s names and numbers in his wallet were meaningless. Refusing to introduce me to his friends we met while out shopping only showed a lack of social graces on his part and revealed much more about my suspicious nature. Old girlfriends calling the house meant nothing. Everyone drunk dials occasionally. Oh! And you didn’t actually catch him with the porn, now did you?
In the prison of my narrow world, no proof meant no grounds for divorce.
I stayed because those in my church were quick to assign blame for marital problems on wives, not husbands. Took years to realize this wasn’t personal but a result of years of women-blaming going way back to Adam, Eve and one tricky reptile.
Blame the woman. She’s suppose to be the helpmeet so get busy with the helping already. Your man struggles with sin? Clearly a reflection of the many ways you failed him as a wife. Want to read more on this, head over to this site. (Just not after a big meal.)
Any Father is Better Than Divorce
Later on, I stayed for the children. The anti-husband told me on numerous occasions that no woman would ever take his kids away from him. He’d get full custody, he’d make my life a living hell, he’d turn them against me, I’d never see them again. I believed him.
Perhaps it was arrogance, but I thought I could protect the children by staying right where I was— a living wall between them and their father, even if it killed me. I could punch his buttons just fine, thanks much, deflect his anger away from them and take the hit while they ran for their rooms. I figured, I’m plenty big, they’re little. I can take it, they can turn eighteen and get out of this hell hole.
He hadn’t crossed the line into physical abuse at that point (although the line was getting mighty soggy) and the children would get an earful of his twisted thinking during visitation. And who knew what he’d do without someone around to call the police? The idea of the beast, alone with a pile of hurting pups who adored his every word at that point in their young lives scared the crap out of me.
The problem with that reasoning? By that time, I had no idea where the lines might be so how could I judge if he’d crossed one or not? When he screamed at our twelve year old daughter over how long it took to wash the dishes, grabbed her bodily and pinned her against the wall over his head, shaking her—that wasn’t physical abuse, was it? When he berated the kids for hours at a time before whipping them across the backside until they bruised—that was just discipline, right?
A woman who’s been emotionally and verbally battered for over a decade is punch drunk. Reasoning? What does that even mean? More like surviving, one crisis to the next, waiting for the another round to begin.
Saying I stayed for the kids sticks in *my* craw these days. Maybe it was the right thing to do. Maybe if I’d been a little braver, left a lot sooner, maybe I would’ve met a kind man who modeled love for the children.
This is my biggest regret and on this particular topic, hindsight hasn’t help one bit.
I Must be Crazy
The fault must lie within the one whining about the difficulty of her outwardly perfect life. Hadn’t I been told time and time again how blessed I was to have such a perfect husband? Handsome and charming and such a godly man! After the thirty-second time some lady cries at your dining table, confessing her sin of envy over your perfect marriage you, start to think you must be nuts.
Later, the anti-husband learned a little trick called, Gaslighting. Look it up. This made the last five years particularly fun.
God Hates Divorce and He Doesn’t Like Me Much Either
Whatever reasons, large or small, there’s one I identified only recently. I stayed because I believed its what God required.
As a Christian teenager, I prayed for a husband. Through various supernatural answers to prayer, I came to believe God gave me this man. So if you pray for a husband and God gives you a monster, what does that tell you? Well, if God is good, then I must be bad.
Maybe I didn’t start out with such twisted logic, but the verbal and emotional battery eventually had its way with my psyche. I deserved this man, this marriage. I was unclean, shameful. I needed to be punished. This was the kind of husband I deserved.
So I stayed, thick or thin, bad or worse. He was my cross to bear. I would be transformed through suffering into the image of Jesus Christ.
I was not bad or unclean or shameful. I was, however, quite broken.
When I prayed for a fish, my enemy was more than ready to slip in a scorpion and at the ripe old age of eighteen, I couldn’t recognize a loaf of bread if Gabriel himself made delivery. (Vague reference to Matthew 7:9-11)
But broken or not, I was also forgiven and covered in the Blood of the Lamb. Those miraculous answers to prayer? I believed I was flawed, I saw what I was looking for. And the man in question was more than willing to manipulate my emotions any way possible to get what he wanted.
If I’d had any understanding of a loving, protective, merciful earthly father, I never would have fallen for the lie. My Father in heaven is a good, good God and He never intended for anyone to live in a daily hell of one tyrant’s rage and control.
So why did I stay?
Once I learned to truth, I didn’t.